This time last year Kiwi Ferns captain Krystal Rota was adamant she wasn’t going to play in the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.
In 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic presented several challenges for New Zealanders and for Krystal, the wellbeing of her family was paramount especially for her daughter Nikayla Dunn.
Eight-year-old Nikayla has a rare kidney disorder and had a kidney transplant at the age of fifteen months.
“It’s one of her dad’s kidneys, that’s what makes it hard to maintain is that it was an adult kidney put into a baby’s body,” Krystal said.
“Obviously it takes a lot of work and maintenance to keep that kidney functioning to the best of its ability. Maintenance involves a lot of medication for her, time to ensure she remains well and when COVID-19 was first around she was prone to get sick easily.”
When New Zealand went into its first-ever lockdown in August 2021, Krystal said she didn’t leave her house for months.
“Leaving the house would have put a huge risk on Nikayla’s health and I have a son too. Protecting them was important so I had my family do the shopping for me,” Krystal said.
“There were also talks about postponement but by then I had already decided that if the competition was to go ahead I would’ve stayed behind with my daughter as my family will always come first no matter what.
“I’m grateful though that it was moved, I was given the opportunity to come across and here I am now.
“Lockdown put a lot of challenges in front of me but when you want something so bad like I did, to compete at this World Cup you do anything to make it possible.”
Leading the Kiwi Ferns in her second World Cup in England, the impossible was made possible and Nikayla has travelled from New Zealand to attend Krystal’s games.
“To see her in the crowd will mean the world to me,” Krystal said.
“I think back to when the squad was named last year, I spoke to her specialist and she ruled out the idea. To know she’s here is a massive achievement in itself.
“Looking ahead to our first game all the nations have come here to win the World Cup that’s the end goal.
“We’ve come here to put our best foot forward and hopefully take the cup back home to New Zealand.”
The Kiwi Ferns will play their Rugby League World Cup Pool B opener against France on Wednesday, November 2 at 5.00pm local time (Thursday, November 3, 6.00am NZT) at the LNER Community Stadium in York.